Speaking Evil

What does it mean to speak evil of someone? Jesus spoke some heavy things about the religious leaders in Matthew 23. He said they were “hypocrites,” “whitewashed tombs” full of dead men’s bones, “son(s) of hell,” “blind guides,” that they loved places of honor, blocked the way into the kingdom refusing to enter themselves, and added to men’s burdens not lifting a finger to help among other things. So was this speaking evil? I don’t think so. What the leaders were doing was evil, and Jesus just called them out for it.

The modern meaning of speaking evil is somewhat different. Mostly it means saying something someone doesn’t like. As long as we speak in generalities, it’s acceptable to the people of the world. If we name names however, make it personal, then they don’t like it and we are probably going to be accused of speaking evil. Not that we are, just that we are accused. For instance I can say that some leaders block entrance into the kingdom. But if I say that, oh, Joel Osteen blocks entrance into the kingdom yet refuses to enter himself, then people get upset.

I get people mad at me because I’m somewhere in between. What I will say is if a person doesn’t follow the Word then he’s a wolf or whitewashed tomb or some of those other things that the Messiah said. I don’t make it personal by calling names. But I do make it personal by saying something like, “If people observe Easter and/or don’t observe Passover, then they are false teachers (hypocrites, tombs, blind guides, etc.). They are not Scriptural.” That way I’m not naming names, but I am holding up the leader’s work to the light of Scripture.

It’s amazing the number of people that get upset when you merely point out that they are not following Scripture. A lot of times the rebuttal is that following the whole of the Word (including Passover for instance) is “just a matter of opinion.” I’ll be told I “can’t throw stones” because I’m not without sin. This is not true (the stones part, not the sin part). The “can’t throw stones if sinful” doctrine is a false one so it’s not a surprise that evil people use it as a defense. The “opinions” defense is also wrong because the Word is clear. Speaking God’s Word is not evil. Intentional or not, it is the insistence on steering people away from God’s living oracles that is evil.

Speaking the Word, or pointing out how people are not following it, is not evil. People doing wrong (against the Word) are evil. People who tell me I’m not supposed to follow God’s Word are evil. Like a lot of words in modern times meanings have been reversed. Good has become evil, and evil has become good in the thinking of evil people.

Bad Shepherds

We can learn a lot about leaders or shepherds from Bible examples (Jeremiah 12:10, 23:1; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 11). The good shepherds are good because they stick with what God says no matter what. Jesus of course is the pattern for all good shepherds everywhere. They care for the flock so much they are willing to forego fame or compensation. They stand up to the bad shepherds; endure beatings and all manner of ill treatment. They deliver God’s Word unadulterated and straight with no bending and no pragmatism. The good shepherd cares for the sheep so much he directs them always to the safe pastures of God’s Word.

Bad shepherds (or prophets) care more for themselves than for the flock. God gave us the method for identifying them in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Isaiah 8:20 and the like. If they tell us to go after other gods, they are false. If they do something that seems right or good (like a prophecy that comes true, a healing or a rising from the dead) but then tell us to go after other gods they are also bad. Going after other gods doesn’t mean just statues in the living room. It means to stop doing what God says and do something else. This is why Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden – they “went after other gods” when they departed from abiding in God’s Word.

Some bad shepherds are so bad they are referred to as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). The better the wool suit, the better they are at leading the sheep astray. The more they use terms in teaching that sound as if they come from the Bible the better their disguise. All they need is to mix just a little bit of error in with a lot of truth.

The bad shepherd slips up when he or she tells us in the midst of a convincing monologue or right after an amazing healing not to obey the commands of God. Or they don’t tell us TO obey the commands and instead direct us elsewhere. The better false teachers or shepherds are the ones who appear impeccable in their outward appearance.